Protecting Vulnerable Children and Youth in Ukraine from Trafficking

IOM targets Ukrainian children and youth with a wide range of counter-trafficking initiatives, including awareness-raising public installations like The Invisible in Plain Sight exhibit (pictured) telling the real stories of trafficking survivors. Photo:

Kyiv - Hanna lived with her grandmother and younger sister on a very limited income. After finishing her first year of study at a vocational school, Hanna discovered that she had a serious eye disease, and decided to earn money for the treatment herself. Her hometown modeling school offered her a job in China, however after arrival Hanna was forced to work in a night club where she narrowly avoid being sexually exploited. 

She was rescued by law enforcement two months after she arrived in China, and received medical and psychosocial assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) upon her return to Ukraine in late 2018.  

Vulnerable youth like Hanna, 17, are a high-risk group for trafficking in human beings. IOM conducts regular surveys on trafficking awareness among general population and vulnerable groups as part of its prevention efforts in Ukraine. The latest one, conducted with funding from Global Affairs Canada, was presented in the capital Kyiv this week. 

“Most of the vulnerable children and youth in Ukraine are gradually becoming aware of the dangers of human trafficking,” Anh Nguyen, Acting Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine said on Wednesday.  

“Over three years, the share of those aware of at least one type of modern slavery has grown from 79 per cent to 85 per cent. However, influenced by their social environment, 66 per cent of vulnerable children and youth from 13 to 20 are still ready to accept at least one offer that may lead them to falling prey to traffickers.”  

Among those surveyed by IOM were at-risk orphans in foster families and state care, homeless youth and children in conflict with the law. It also included those displaced by conflict and the children of labour migrants. 

Among the respondents, 96 per cent of youth aged 14–20 detained in penitentiaries said they were prepared to accept at least one proposal that may lead to human trafficking, with high rates also uncovered among children registered in juvenile probation centres (86 per cent), and homeless children (81 per cent). Those proposals included agreeing to work without a proper contract in an unfamiliar region, accepting well-paid suspicious or illegal work, visiting a stranger’s home or entering their vehicle, or borrowing a large sum of money.  

Last year, IOM Ukraine identified and assisted 86 children who had experienced forced labour and sexual exploitation, forced begging and exploitation in criminal activities, as well as vulnerable children in difficult life circumstances who were at high risk of being trafficked. The number of children assisted has more than doubled since 2017.  

"Such increase in identification is a result of targeted efforts and extended capacity of governmental and non-governmental agencies to identify and assist these children. It is important to continue the systematic targeted work on trafficking prevention among vulnerable groups as well as all children and youth in Ukraine," said IOM’s Nguyen. 

* Name changed to protect privacy 

For additional information please contact Varvara Zhluktenko, IOM Ukraine, Email:, Tel: +38 044 568 5015, +38 067 447 97 92 

Learn more how UN Migration works on trafficking prevention among vulnerable children and youth in Ukraine from a video.